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01/09/2016 11:00
Austria’s rising star Moritz Pristauz dreams big
2016 CEV Beach Volleyball European Champonship - Jurmala Masters

Jurmala, Latvia, September 1, 2016. The Jurmala Masters and especially the qualification round that started on Thursday morning under ideal weather conditions are an opportunity for young, up-and-coming players to shine and show what they are capable of. This applies also to Austria’s rising star Moritz Pristauz, who successfully started his journey on Latvian sand with partner Martin Ermacora by recording a 2-0 win (21-14, 21-17) over Sweden’s Martin Appelgren and Simon Boman.

Only four days ago Pristauz won a silver medal at the U22 European Championship in Thessaloniki, Greece. Moritz teamed up with Maximilian Trummer, who is actually his flatmate in Vienna, especially for this age-group tournament. “It was not really clear who my partner was going to be but Martin [Ermacora] was definitely not eligible because of the age limit set for this competition. I eventually got to play with Maximilian. Our only previous experience together dates back to many years ago when we played at the U14 national championship, but our renewed partnership worked just fine. We practiced together for a few weeks and played one tournament of the national tour in Austria before travelling to Greece. We eventually made it to the final and am happy with the silver medal we won there.”

Pristauz and Trummer lost the final in two sets to Norway’s rising stars Anders Berntsen Mol and Christian Sandlie Sørum: “I absolutely have no regrets, they were simply too strong for us and their European title is well-deserved. Going into the tournament, we were hoping to finish ninth or possibly fifth, so we definitely exceeded our expectations. On the other hand, I had kind of predicted that Norway were the favourites to win the title. Others did not agree with me, and said Norway were not going to make it but eventually we ended up being the team standing on the other side of the net in the final. Unfortunately, I was right, because Norway won gold in the end.”

The young and talkative Moritz was born in Graz where he started playing Volleyball at the tender age of six. “They usually do not accept kids who are so young, but my coach in Graz, Anton Fichtinger, somehow scouted my skills at such young age and decided I was allowed to join. He is doing a great job with young players and he really helps their development. He actually did the same with me.”

Pristauz has an excellent record in age-group competitions, for his international debut in 2013 coincided with a silver medal he won at the U18 European Championship in Molodechno, Belarus. “It was a great experience; I played my first international competition and got a medal right at my first attempt.” His opponents in the final were two players who have already gone a pretty successful way since these early days of their career, Russia’s Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Artem Yarzutkin, i.e. the 2014 Youth Olympic champions and winners of a World Tour silver medal earlier this year in Iran. “As far as I can remember, the final was pretty close,” Moritz recounted. He has a remarkable memory because the gold medal match finished 21-19, 24-22 for the Russians who are also set to compete in Jurmala this week.

Moritz and his partner Martin Ermacora will be carrying Austria’s dreams of glory in the next Olympic cycle, but they already left their mark this summer doing well at the CEV Baden Satellite and especially at the Klagenfurt Major Series. “We are planning to stick together for the next four years and our big dream is to make it to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020,” Pristauz admitted. However, there is another major goal they want to achieve first, to play at next year’s FIVB World Championships in Vienna. “We’d love to be there. Actually I live in Vienna and every day I pass by the place [Donauinsel] where the championship will be taking place. It is right on my way to training, so every day I dream about playing at next year’s Worlds. We will continue to work hard in order to make this dream come true.”

For the time being Moritz is hoping to progress to the Main Draw of the Jurmala Masters. He and Ermacora started well and later on Thursday afternoon there will be an Austrian derby with Daniel Müllner and Lorenz Petutschnig to decide who will eventually make it to the next stage of the competition…

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